By John Dever, PGA of America
BRYAN, Texas – Elizabeth Wang of San Marino, California, shot an even-par 71 Wednesday and leads the Girls’ Division by a single shot over Mariel Galdiano (Pearl City, Hawaii), while leader Brad Dalke of Hobart, Oklahoma, saw his advantage cut from six strokes to just two at the end of three rounds at the 40th Junior PGA Championship presented by Under Armour and Genesis Networks.
The third round was an up-and-down affair for soon-to-be high school sophomore Wang. Her birdie on the par-4 fourth hole was her third in as many days on that hole and it moved her to 6-under par. From there, however, Wang dropped four shots, including a double bogey on the seventh hole, before making the turn.
Wang steadied her ship by birdieing the 10th and 13th holes, both par 4s. The 15-year-old parred each of the other seven holes on the back nine and, in general, seemed pleased with her game.
“I’ll work on my putting [for tomorrow], but hopefully everything else stays pretty good,” said Wang, whose three-day tally of 209 puts her at 4-under-par.
For the third time in as many days, Galdiano fashioned a 1-under-par 70 and Wednesday’s version was only sub-par round registered in the Girls’ Division. At 3-under, 210, Galdiano trails Wang by just a single shot. She is riding a strong wave of momentum after winning the Canadian Women’s Amateur last weekend.
Galdiano’s morning started as it had in each of the first two rounds, with a birdie on the par-5 first hole. However, bogeys at the fourth, fifth and eighth holes dropped her back to level par. At the time of her bogey at No. 8, Galdiano was suddenly six shots behind Yujeong Son (Norman, Oklahoma), the leader at that moment.
Things changed for Galdiano on the back side thanks to a well-timed birdie binge. Her fourth and final inward birdie came on the 17th hole and moved her into a tie for the lead with Wang. “I felt much better on the back nine,” she said.
After hitting her third shot left on the par-5 18th and into a hazard, Galdiano eventually missed a 10-foot putt for par to drop a shot back of Wang.
The leader after the first two rounds, Son faltered down the stretch with bogeys on six of her final 10 holes. She was 2-under through her initial eight holes, but was betrayed by her usually trustworthy putter.
“I missed two three-footers and that really let me down,” said Son, who nevertheless will be in Thursday’s final group. At 212, she is only three shots off the pace after carding a 75.
Son is the last of only three girls under par after three rounds of heat, and increasing doses of wind and humidity, at Miramont Country Club.
“It felt like a battle out there,” Wang said when asked about the girls at the top of the leaderboard, herself included, separating from the pack. “I had a lot of pressure” to keep up.
Fai Khamborn (Cincinnati, Ohio) is in fourth at 1-over 214. With a 77, Kaitlyn Papp (Austin, Texas) is seven shots back and in fifth place at 216.
The 72-hole Championship features a 54-hole cut to the low 30 boys and 30 girls, including ties.
Equipped with a six-shot lead overnight and fresh off a record-setting 62 on Tuesday, Dalke struggled not as much with his game for much of Wednesday’s third round, but with his ability to score.
“I obviously did not play as well as yesterday, but I did not play terrible,” said Dalke. “I just really couldn’t get anything going today.”
While many chasing him went low, especially on Miramont’s front side, Dalke instead started sluggishly.
Dalke, 17, started his afternoon with four pars, and while that doesn't sound alarming, he was a collective 7-under par on this same opening quartet of holes on Monday and Tuesday.
Bogeys on the fifth and seventh holes further tempered any visions of Dalke extending his lead. Although he birdied 490-yard par-4 ninth hole, he gave it right back with a bogey on the par-3 11th.
At 8-under-par 205 and alone in second place is Cole Hammer (Houston), who started the day tied for fourth place, eight shots behind Dalke.
The 15-year-old, who played in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in June, is now just two shots behind Dalke and thrilled to join him in the final group.
“It is good to know what you have to do,” Hammer said. “I can see what my opponents are doing.”
At 7-under, 206, Kaiwen Liu (San Diego) is alone in third place. Noah Goodwin (Corinth, Texas) and Will Thomson (Pittsford, N.Y.) are in solo possession of fourth (6-under 207) and fifth place (5-under 208), respectively. Both are comfortably within striking distance of Dalke, Hammer and Liu entering Thursday’s final round.
“It’s a clean slate now and I have a two-stroke lead going into tomorrow,” said Dalke, when summing up his new 62-turned-73 reality. “I wish it could be more, but I can’t do anything about it. It should be a fun day tomorrow.”